I have just read Brad’s latest blog on psychedelic zenand I completely agree with him in the way he was riled up “One of the things that never fails to get me riled up is when I see some guy in a set of Buddhist robes advocating the use of psychedelic drugs as a way to study the dharma.” For me these dressed-up guys do not understand the dhamma and precepts, how can you look at and understand your mind when they have been perverted by drugs? My drug of “choice” was alcohol, and when an alcoholic it used to come up with all kinds of justifications for my actions. If you are justifying drugs spiritually then you are not justifying it in terms of what I call Buddhism.
But I was more interested in this article concerning the hoops Brad runs through as a Zen Monk. First of all I am not a monk so do I have right to criticise?
Anyway!! “This is why it’s extra super important when you put on the robes of a Buddhist Master to be really careful what you advocate. I have deep regrets about some of the stuff I’ve said myself in the context of being a Buddhist teacher. People listen to that shit! It’s scary!”
As a retired teacher I would say that as a teacher you should be conscious of what you say, and as a Buddhist priest and teacher even more so. “But at least I usually avoid saying such stuff while wearing a set of formal robes. Those robes take every damned thing you say and turbo-charge it. This is why lots of people who wear the robes stick very closely to tried and true formulaic stuff. In fact, my personal policy with the robes is to wear them only when performing rituals. I feel like they’re kind of dangerous things.”
What makes Brad interesting is that as a Buddhist teacher he does not hide behind the restrictions that most monks constrict themselves with. Theravada something I have looked into a bit is typical of this. Even followers use a format of quoting suttas, and express all in terms of suttas and Buddhist terminology. Whilst this does allow a high level of investigation eventually – once enough is understood, it is restrictive – and in my view prevents a certain level of introspection.
Brad, putting on robes does add centuries of study and experience to comments you make. Becoming a Zen monk also adds centuries of study and experience to comments you make. When you draw a distinction between robes and civies it concerns me. For example when you write this blog, are you “wearing robes”? When you write your books are you “wearing civies”?
I believe with all such things, Buddhist monk or otherwise, there is a public and private persona. If I am a Republican politician and I am sat at home and telling a friend that Donald Trump is a complete megalomanic dickhead who is a global danger whilst throwing darts at his picture, I have a right to do that without anyone knowing or hearing of it – private persona. But once I go on record in whatever form, blogs books interview, whether I wear a suit or am in casual dress, that is public record, and I am accountable.
It is my contention that a Zen monk has only two personas, the public and private one. To suggest there is three by adding the wearing of robes is wanting icing on the cake – seeking a way out. Should a zen monk be doing anything or saying anything in public which they cannot be held accountable for?
My interest in Brad is that he addresses issues other monks do not address. I feel monks should be addressing these issues. I have a feeling that amongst some monks they are afraid to address issues and hide behind robes, suttas et al. By seeking an additional category of “wearing civies” as perhaps denoting less accountability brings doubt on what has been said. It is important for followers to have confidence that what has been said and written is 100% wearing-robes Brad, and not 90% civies-wearing Brad.
I am hard-nosed – sorry, comes from being a retired leftie trade-unionist teacher.